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Big Law Firm Changes Diversity Fellowship After Lawsuit Filed

Morrison Foerster is one of the country's top 50 highest-grossing law firms. Since 2012, the law firm has offered the Keith Wetmore Fellowship for Excellence, Diversity, and Inclusion. This fellowship was open to first-year law students who belong to a "diverse population that has historically been underrepresented in the legal profession," including Black, Latino, Native American, and LGBTQ+ people.

The American Alliance for Equal Rights (AAER), run by a conservative activist, sued Morrison and Perkins Coie (another law firm), accusing them of racial discrimination. This same group successfully brought the cases against affirmative action before the U.S. Supreme Court. The lawsuits seek to bar the firms from selecting any fellows and impose a future ban on the programs.

Morrison Foerster has rewritten the fellowship description on its website following the lawsuit. It removed all references to race. It now seeks applications from "exceptional first and second-year law students with a demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion in the legal profession." Students must show their “ability to bring a diverse perspective to the firm as a result of [their] adaptability, cultural fluency, resilience, and life experiences.” These changes reflect the potential uncertainty around diversity efforts since the Supreme Court's decision prohibiting any consideration of race in college admissions. Higher education institutions and private employers seeking diverse candidates are working to accommodate those interests while complying with the Court's decision. The legal profession remains predominantly white, with just ten percent of individuals belonging to an ethnic minority.